Valley girls soccer program set to begin new era under coach Jacob Miller

Published 10:40 am Tuesday, July 2, 2024

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Valley High School’s girls soccer program is moving into a new era as the Rams announced Jacob Miller as the program’s new head coach. 

Miller comes into Valley’s program with a wealth of experience. He graduated from Tuscaloosa County High School and then went on to get his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Alabama. 

Miller has been coaching on the pitch for the better part of nine years. He has coached at the high school and club level. Miller has coached at bigger schools like Chelsea and several other 6A and 7A schools. 

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The job at Valley will be a complete change of scenery for Miller, but he felt like the school and the program was the perfect fit for him at this stage of his career. 

“I was looking to relocate down to that area anyway,” Miller said. “Valley is a program that I felt I could put a big stamp on. Coaching soccer is something that I’ve done for a long time and it’s a big part of me. It seemed like the girls program there is kind of in its infancy. Obviously, a lot of work has been done by coaches before me. I’m looking to build on that. It just seemed like the type of program I could have a big influence on that wasn’t already established with a rich history.” 

The Lady Rams have been a struggling program since they became an all-girls program in 2019. Valley has yet to have a winning season since its inaugural season. 

Miller hopes to get the program moving in the right direction next season. The first step of the process for the program is to play teams that are at the same competitive level. Miller also believes that driving interest in the hallways will lead the program to more success. 

“I’ve already had some discussions on how we can do that directly through being more intentional with the teams that we schedule to play against,” Miller said. 

“If I’m at Valley for future years, that’s going to be a big focal point,” Miller added. “Outside of that, it’s increasing interest in the program and getting more people on board to play. [Also] getting girls that are already there interested in playing club soccer in the fall and making it a full-time sport that they’re passionate about like we see for basketball.” 

Growing the interest on campus is important, but Valley as a program also has to grow the community’s interest. Soccer is a small sport in Chambers County and surrounding areas. Football along with baseball and basketball have dominated the area. 

Miller looks to make soccer a sport that fans will pack the stands in Ram Stadium for. He has several ideas to make this happen, largely involving community outreach and hosting unique events. 

“Valley seems like a smaller community than most of the ones I’ve been involved with. My assumption in those types of communities is that everyone knows each other and it’s more of a tight-knit community,” Miller said. “I’m hoping that we can do some outreach things to tap into that…I have ideas regarding things like nights where we can host events like a youth night, teacher night, or whatever it may be.” 

Miller comes into Valley’s program with a lot of experience and high expectations. He comes from a bigger school than Valley, but he also hopes to relate to the girls through similar experiences while also being honest with them about expectations. 

“The main thing to know is that I come into this kind of newer program… coming from a lot of big programs,” Miller said. “I come in with the mindset that we need to have some honest discussions about what it takes to win and what it takes to improve a program.” 

“With that being said, I grew up at Tuscaloosa County High School, a school that was not known for soccer,” Miller added. “It was a big 7A school. We had to compete against the biggest and best, and we were the little fish in a big pond. Despite the fact that I have high expectations for the girls coming in, I also understand what it’s like to be the team that struggles to win and has to have that blue-collar mentality. I hope I can relate to them in that way.” 

Lee Miller was one of the biggest influences on Jacob’s coaching early on. The two coached alongside each other at Chelsea High School. Lee helped Jacob understand how to lead a program while also listening to those around you. 

“We grew to a really strong rapport, and I worked under him for three years at Chelsea High School,” Miller said. “I just really learned a lot about what leadership looked like under him, in terms of delegating to those around you and being open-minded and having open ears to the people around you…I think I learned a lot about kind of having that humility when you’re the face of the program and not allowing yourself to tune out other people’s opinions.” 

The Lady Rams finished with a 4-12 record last season, but the expectations for Miller are already going to be high coming in. 

Miller believes that a successful first season with the program will show steady improvement from start to finish. However, he also wants the program to strive to make the playoffs in year one under his leadership. 

“The expectation for me is not necessarily about wins and losses when you’re trying to develop the culture of a program,” Miller said. “The goal would be to see improvement. That’s not always going to show up on a record or a scoreline.” 

“I think we have to have a goal to make the playoffs this year,” Miller added. “With the area that’s changed recently, our area is a bit favorable in terms of our ability to make the playoffs. It’s not something that we should go in expecting is going to happen, but it’s a goal we should strive for.”